I was fortunate enough to get the chance to attend the 2018 Black British Business Awards – a prestigious event celebrating extraordinary achievements of black people in UK businesses. Being a young black British male, I cherished this opportunity.
Curated by two of the UK’s most influential women in business, Sophie Chandauka and Melanie Eusebe, the evening was an unforgettable experience, with so many surprises and learnings. I bumped into a few people from my local community of East London at the event, including one of my barbers (who was nominated for an award and won!).
From the food served, to the music of the night, the evening encompassed everything to do with Black British culture – the attention to detail from the founders did not go unnoticed. A tremendous amount of humility was displayed by each and every one of the winners, in particular by the Person of the Year, Roni Savage, who hadn’t even brought her mum as she was sure she wouldn’t win!
Every nominee had an incredible story to tell. Roni’s really stuck with me, having created her start-up from her kitchen table in 2009, to evolving it into business which last year generated a £2m turnover. Superwoman is an understatement.
Another winner of the night was Selma Nicholls, who created her business ‘Looks Like Me’ after her three-year-old daughter began to question her own identity due to a lack of black and ethnic models seen on the screen and in magazines. Her business began in 2015 and with the help of a Virgin StartUp loan has gone on to work with major clients such as Tesco, Next & Sainsbury’s. What made it even better for Selma was that her daughter was there to see her win.
Many of the younger nominees had begun their businesses from a really young age, something I’m all too familiar with having been involved in a start-up since the age of 19. We began a contemporary menswear creative agency in 2014 called KÄSE. I did this whilst studying at university and managing a tight budget – these challenges helped shape me and my partners as both businessmen and people.
Seeing so many young black professionals excelling in their roles, as well as seniors in their fields being lauded for their work, filled me with joy. It also lead me to the question why there’d been a lack of coverage aimed at Black British youngsters in the past, and what I can do to help spread the word further in the years to come.
I grew up in a predominantly working class neighbourhood, there were many black young people facing socio-economic barriers to success. The winners at the Black British Business Awards are a concrete example of how people born into a similar situation do not need to be limited by their upbringing and background and can go on to achieve incredible things in their careers and in their personal lives.
Moving forward it’s important that as a society we push on to empower the black youth who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. We must continue to champion role models in similar ways to how I witnessed at the BBBA.